Our first visit to Sustainable Cambodia

26 Feb

By Gary

Day 7 – Early morning ride to Pursat.  We got on the road at 8 and everyone had made it to Pursat by 10:30am or so.  I stopped at a moto shop and got my headlight fixed and had an oil change.  Big bill this time – $4 🙂

So we were in Pursat to meet with Sustainable Cambodia.  Dean called them and they sent Dimang to lead us to their campus in Pursat.  Lots of introductions were made.  Too many to remember really, but I do remember the name of Polin (sp?) because he was a project director and spoke particularly good English.

They gave us a quick overview of their projects and we inferred their close relationship  with Rotary International – aka the Rotary Club back home.  They seemed to really have their act together and this was echoed by several of the volunteers we spoke to.  The best thing about SC was that they do not give handouts – all of their projects revolve around helping people become self sufficient.

The campus had a library and some school rooms, a community fish pond, rainwater collection system and several biosand water filters.  The people working there and the kids going to school there all used the facilities on the site, but it was clear that they also doubled as a showcase of their projects.

After lunch and another couple quick presentations the kids were getting out of class and we got a couple photos with the kids and the bikes and then headed out to one of the villages just outside of Pursat.  I got the impression this village was a mature SC project.  SC has several different projects, but to explain the first place we went requires a little background.

As I understand it, the way SC organizes is that they setup village community ‘councils’.  The councils oversee the local projects and do community funded microloans to the villagers.  The microloans are actually genius as long as the village as a whole has enough resources to fund them.  They only charge 2% interest, 1% goes to the council admin costs and the other 1% goes to the community members that sponsored the loan.  That stands in stark contrast to Kiva or other microfinance places that typically end up charging between 30% and 40% interest.

So, the first place we went was the house of the current council head.  Their very modest acre or two farm implemented at least two very ingenious SC projects.  The most impressive is a biogas generation system.  Essentially it is an underground holding tank into which they add a slurry of 20 liters of water and 20 kilos of cow dung every day.  That produces enough methane to run gas lamps and cooking stoves – the modest farm house had gas plumbing and fixtures and they all worked with the turn of a knob.  The system had a consistent 9kpa of pressure so it must have had a regulator outside the house.  The excess pressure in the tank would force out the old manure into a holding tank that they then could use as fertilizer for their crops (corn and various types of squash).  Ingenious and cheap.  The whole system was less than $500.  Sustainable Cambodia picks up half the tab for the biogas installs and the family pays the rest.

The also had a shallow water pump, cistern and I think a biosand filter as well.  They were pretty much entirely self sufficient.  I didn’t see their cattle – they must have been out grazing, but the dung was all over the fenced area around the house and I imagine the rainy season provides more than enough water to make the whole thing work indefinitely.  Really ingenious setup.

Then we went to the village school campus and community center – cute kids running around after school, women making baskets, a some bee hives and a palm wine distillery – lots of stuff going on there.  Very cool and all are/were Sustainable Cambodia projects.

Afterwards we headed back to Pursat for dinner and a couple beers.  We need to get on the road early today to get to the next outlying project.  Breakfast and get on the road by 8am – gotta run.

2012 Ride for Cambodia team and Sustainable Cambodia kids


The kids were super friendly


A few of the villagers who SC works together with


Methane collection system in Cambodia


Methane gas lamp at villager's house


Farming food


Well water system and pump




Biosand filter to produce clean drinking water


SC built the building and helps train teachers for this school in Pursat provence








Gary checking out bees


Another SC classroom


Kids having fun at SC school


Villager weaving basket


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